'Relate religion to everyday life'
MARRIAGE-training courses for courting couples . . . "Cana conferences" for young husbands and wives . . . groups of voluntary workers to help neglectful parents . . more home-visiting by priests . . . a national Catholic Family Association.
These are some of the urgent suggestions by clergy and laity in the front ranks of Catholic Action to strengthen family life— suggestions made in response to questions put by "The Catholic Herald."
Ten prominent clergy and laity answered the questions last week. This week 12 contribute to the round-the-table poll.
Dame Vera Laughton-Mathews. former Director of thc "Wrens," sums up the importance of the discussion with her remark that "the lessons learnt unconsciously by children in their own homes set their standards of value for life."
Standard not high enough?
HERE are the five questions and answers:
DO you think that most of the
problems which beset the Catholic community in Britain, leakage, delinquency, insufficient instruction in the Faith, too low standards of natural morality, insularity, are mainly due to insufficiently Catholic and Christian homes?
Fr. J. H. Crehan, S.J.
Many. but perhaps not most. of the problems listed can be traced to the home; after all, one can indulge in idleness, bad company and the neglect cif prayer both at home and at school.
Mr. Tom O'Brien, M.P., Chairman of the Trades Union Congress
Mainly yes, but bad environment and low standards of living are contributory causes.
Dame Vera LaughtonMathews Yes, because the lessons learnt unconsciously by children in their own homes. set their Standards of values for life.
Fr. Joseph Christie. SJ.
Not entirely : environment at work and elsewhere is important: the influence of films, papers, bad companions, etc.
Councillor John Hodgson, President of Leeds Labour Party •
Certainly. The basis of a happy, fervently Catholic and Christian life is. the family. A family life presupposes a home, which presupposes a house. Two few houses means less homes, not only by the difference between the number in separate homes and houses built, but also by the number sharing—tenant and subtenant.
Fr. Gordon Albion, historian
Yes, generally speaking.
Mr. KerrellVaughan, housing expert, chairman of the Westminster C.P.A. diocesan council A self-evident truth. Mr. Cornelius A. Joyce, vicechairman, Catholic Scout Advisory Council No. I would attribute two-thirds of the blame to the almost catastrophic fall in the national standards of morality, which has undoubtedly affected Catholic lives and lowered their resistance to evil.
Kevin Muir, national president of the Young Christian Workers It is because most of the homes are not Catholic and Christian that the young boy or girl leaving school loses the support of the only Christian conimunity he or she experiences, namely, the Catholic school. Without that support, they are open to all the evil influences of work and leisure life, with only half-hearted and unappreciated attendances at Sunday Mass, if that, to offset them.
Capt. S. E. Norfolk, R.N. (Reid.), a pioneer of the Sevenoaks Catholic Parish Association
Fundamentally, yes. But to cope successfully with the materialistic atmosphere which pervades the office and workshop today it is essential to have an intelligent understanding of the practical value of one's religion in relation to the problems of everyday life. This can only be obtained by a regular course of religious instruction, which can seldom be given in the home. though it can be reinforced by the example set there.
Charles Graham Hope, author I agree that the moral and spiritual condition of the home is a preponderating—but not the only—factor in the problem.
Mr. H. D. Durkin, Catholic Parents and Electors' Association
Concentrate on the home?
I DO you feel that a concentration
of effort on the problem of the home, as compared with the present concentration of effort on the parish and the school, would go some way to solve these problems?
FR. CHRISTIE : I do not think Catholics can solve the problem of the home except by pressure on the authorities and apostolic zeal. Education, on the other hand, is some
FR. CREHAN : The examiner has not worded this question well: everyone can agree that concentration on the home would go some way to solving the problems, but that is not very informative. Schools have their own problems, overcrowding, reorganisation, etc., just now, and it would be unfair to put all the blame on the home.
KERRELL-VAI GH N : I do: Life begins and ends in the home. The whole purpose must surely be to build Christian families, to create Christian communities — Christian nations.
HODGSON : One cannot answer for the general position throughout the country as to which has first priority: local conditions should be the guide, but it may well be that first should come Mass Centres, then houses, then schools, dependant upon the availability of labour and materials and finance.
DAME VERA : All these are very important and I do not think less concentration on spiritual or scholastic education is a solution. Parents can only give their children what they have themselves, and education should give parents and future parents a deeper sense of true values, and wider knowledge and understanding.
NORFOLK : Some way, yes. but only some way. As the child has to spend a very considerable proportion of its waking hours in school from the age of five onwards, the school must inevitably exercise a very important influence on the child's character. Concentration of effort on the home alone would not therefore solve the problem. It is essentially a matter for a home-school partnership, but with the home as the predominant partner.
O'BRIEN: The home. the parish and the school go together. Concentration on one to the exclusion of the others would he ineffective.
MUIR : I am convinced that this effort must be made. through preparing ■ oung people who arc about to he married for their roles as parents. From a study made by the Y.C.W. a year or so ago, we found that almost none of the young people approached knew what was the primary purpose of marriage.
DURKIN : Yes, but the home should be visited regularly by the clergy and young people must be personally known to the clergy.
FR. ALBION: It seems to me that there has been a concentration on the home for some time, e.g., the Family Rosary Crusade. 1 shall be interested to see in what other ways you think this problem can be tackled.
JOYCE: Yes. The problem is that of personal responsibility and it is vital that all parents should realise it is they and not the priest or school teacher who must answer to God for the upbringing of their children.
HOPE : Surely there should be an equal and very strong effort in both directions simultaneously. for failure in one environment will adversely allect the influence in the other. In this connection it seems that more could be done by those in charge of Catholic schools to enhance the authority of parents.
WOULD you enumerate what
seem to you the root causes of Insufficiently high Catholic is n d Christian standards in the homes?
KERRELL-VAUGHAN: Poverty, improvidence, overcrowding, squalor. Lack of social conscience, inadequate support for Catholic sociological societies. Low moral standards, frustration. Disinterest of parishioners in the welfare of others. Small encouragement of lay-leadership.
DAME VERA : Separated or illmatched parents. inefficient and irresponsible parents. The rush and strain of modern life. Insufficient religious training in non-Catholic schools. Importance placed on money or position, instead of on spiritual ideas.
JOYCE : The impersonal nature of most huge town parishes. Many parishioners are not known to the priest and know few, if any, other members of the parish. This tends to weaken the corporate spirit, which in turn leads to outside activities and companionship generally non-Catholic. Smaller families lose the virtue of charity, which must be present where a number live together.
The week-end habit, whereby members of the family go off camping, hiking, motoring, etc., breaking the continuity of family Mass and Communion.
The 12 o'clock Mess I dread to think what will happen if we get afternoon and evening Mass!
I. Difficulty of resisting merely worldly standards in an ever-increasing secularist environment.
2. Loss of the idea of vocation (and training) in work and marriage. and the lack of incentive a n d responsibility resulting from some aspects of the Welfare State. Consequent loss of eternal values and pursuit of ephernei al pleasures.
3. Lack of exercise of parental responsibility.
HOPE : Almost everything in the world today is working against true sanctity in the home. but. taking that for granted. I should saythat the main defect in Catholic life today is a failure to relate teaching and action.
FR. CREHAN : Firstly, the rather frightening decay of devotion to the Sacred Heart in the family: absence of any external sign that this is a Catholic family consecrated to Our Lord. Bound up with this is the desire to appear just as pagan as the next 'family. in externals at least. (The great appeal of the Rosary Crusade to Protestants was that it brought back something they knew they had lost—family prayers.) O'BRIEN: All economic conditions under which thousands of poor Catholic families were horn and reared during this century. The effects of leakage of the last generation, and the general trend of present social habits.
MUIR: I. Lack of knowledge on the part of parents regarding their responsibilities to their children. This demands more explicit instruction of parents and intending parents, by priests and organisations.
2. General misunderstanding of what being a good Catholic means. Too many are judged by their attendance at church—the life of Christian charity in everyday affairs is strangely neglected, if not ignored.
FR. CHRISTIE : I am not sure that I know but the secular influences of the day have a way of entering the home in a way they never had before.
HODGSON : Insufficient regard by parents to the need for accepting normal parental responsibility of training. Too much reliance upon teachers for tuition of children in faith—forgetful of the fact that children learn quickly by example—which has a detrimental effect when children reach adolescence.
NORFOLK he root cause, in
my opinion. is the fact that the parents are themselves products of a system of religious education which is out of date and has failed to give them a proper appreciation of the practical value of their religion.
Without the backing which this alone can give them, they arc overwhelmed by the pace of modern life and its many distractions, and thus lose sight of the essentials.
DURKIN : Mother at work, mixed marriages, religious indifference, quarrelsome parents.
'World full of injustices'
A WHAT importance do you -7 attach to social and economic factors as distinct from moral and spiritual?
O'BRIEN: Great importance. The fruits of the earth cannot grow and ripen without the wind and the rain and the sun, and things spiritual cannot he expected to grow, that is, with ordinary mortals, in a world full of social injustices.
FR. ALBION : Very considerable importance, especially housing, overcrowding and the cult of noise (incessant and indiscriminate radio, etc.).
FR. CHRISTIE : They are of enormous importance. Difficulties in this sphere colour the whole religious outlook of many of our people.
DAME VERA : I am a great believer in further education for girls as well as boys, and in the benefit of this to the next generation.
FR. CREHAN : Housing, of course, counts for much, and the drift of population from place to place, or round and round the suburbs. Then. too, Catholics are now becoming so numerous that in many town parishes all sense of community is lost. No one knows anyone else. Religion becomes as impersonal as the factory.
HOPE : Economic factors do not seem to be decisive either way. Slack and lapse-prone Catholics are to be found in every income group. though perhaps fewer in the middle and lower-middle ones. The same may be said of social factors.
DURKIN : The importance of social and economic factors looms large because of scholarships and the
KERRELL-VAUGHAN : Economic insufficiency militates against attainment of adequate moral and spiritual standards (another selfevident truth).
JOYCE : Life has become too easy and moral standards low. All presentday tendencies are towards pushbutton control. but the inward forces for good and evil are fierce and pulsating emotions requiring strength of character and control of mind and body. and unless the mind is disciplined the passions take control.
The flames are fanned by presentday novels. films and plays. We have arrived at the state where mass murders arc regarded as "unfortunate," where rigged trials and executions are part of the system and are politely deplored.
"Because thou are neither hot nor cold I will spew thee from my mouth." Vfe are in the unhappy state of being spewed.
HODGSON : Too often the Church is criticised for lack of interest in social and economic factors. Obvious that where poverty exists faith is severely tested, NORFOLK : Social and economic factors are not primary reasons for the breakdown of Christian standards in the home. They aggravate a situation which is simply a reflection of the widespread loss of respect for religious principles which is a characteristic of the present century and is often ascribed to reaction from the hypocrisy of the Victorian era.
MUIR :Those social and economic factors such as overcrowding, low wages which demand that the father works overtime or the mother goes out to work, a depressing slum environment, can and do make the living of a Christian family life needlessly difficult for many people in this country. But that life can be lived. if the parents are sufficiently instructed and possessed of an heroic virtue and trust.
Better conditions could help a lot of the less fervent. Transfer to a new home could be used to bring about a rebirth of Christian life.
How to break the circle
HAVE you any ideas as to how si to break the present vicious circle of insufficiently well-trained Catholic parents failing to impart the desirable training to the present younger generation?
KERRELL-VAl GHAN: Foundation, on sound financial basis, of a Catholic Family Association, on a national level—a Christian philanthropic cause which should appeal to earnest people who see the need for transforming the Sunday congregations into the week-day community.
MUIR : Of General Booth to the drunkard: "We cannot do anything with you. We want your boy."
Train the adolescents to live as real Christians. prepare them for marriage, giving them an idea of the wonderful idealism of co-operating in the work of Creation, help them to see their tremendous responsibility.
Help them also materially, as well as spiritually. to prepare for marriage. Organise groups of courting couples, support self-build housing programmes. Press for housing loans.
HOPE : See answer to (3). The introduction of the Christian Family Movement, with its emphasis on Gospel study and action, might begin to have some effect on some parents. The same methods, Gospel Enquiry. See—Judge—Act. must be applied to young people. 1 have found that children respond to calls to definite action. such as paperselling. poster stamp-selling, leafletdropping. The great thing is to in